EU officials discuss old ship exports

Denmark pushes for clarity on "environmentally unsound" exports to developing countries

The Danish environment ministry is leading talks to clarify EU rules on ship exports to developing countries for scrapping, following a campaign by environmental NGOs. Greenpeace and the Basel Action Network claim that European countries are breaching the UN Basel convention on transboundary movements of hazardous waste by allowing the practice. The groups say that ships containing toxic residues of oil, PCBs and other contaminants are being sent for scrapping in countries like Indonesia and India, where workers' lives are put at risk. A case of two vessels formerly owned by the Danish government and dismantled in India is being investigated by Danish police. The NGOs highlighted two more instances last month (ENDS Daily 18 November). Backed by non-EU member Norway, Denmark is pushing for clarification of EU law on when ships should be treated as hazardous waste, at which point their export to developing countries should be prohibited under the Basel convention. It also wants to know how to handle complex situations where ships sail under flags of convenience. EU officials exchanged initial experiences on the issue at a meeting on Friday. ENDS Daily understands that while the practice in countries such as Germany is to sell ships as second-hand goods some time before they reach the end of their lives, some, such as Norway, have fleets approaching retirement that are likely to be sent abroad for scrapping. Greenpeace submitted a position paper to the meeting arguing that redundant ships must clearly be classified as hazardous waste unless they are thoroughly cleaned.

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